The Royal Academy of Art’s Summer Exhibition – coordinated by Grayson Perry in this, the institution’s  250th anniversary year – opened this week. The world’s largest open submission contemporary art show, this year’s display features more than 1,300 hand-picked artworks in an array of mediums including a monumental sculpture by Anish Kapoor, large scale works by David Hockney and Joana Vasconcelos as well as others by the likes of Mona Hatoum, Tal R, Wolfgang Tillmans, Mike Nelson, Tracey Emin, Rose Wylie, Ed Ruscha and Bruce Nauman. The display extends across the newly extended campus off Piccadilly and can be seen until 19th August. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk. PICTURE: Grayson Perry, Selfie with Political Causes (Woodcut
200 x 300cm The artist and Paragon | Contemporary Editions Ltd.)

Beloved children’s author, PL Travers – she of Mary Poppins fame – has been commemorated with an English Heritage Blue Plaque. The plaque was installed at 50 Smith Street in Chelsea where the Australian-born Travers lived for 17 years and which is said to have been the inspiration for the Banks’ family home in the Disney film, Mary Poppins. Travers took up residence in the house in 1946, after returning to the UK from the US where she’d lived during World War II. It was here that she raised her adopted son, John Camillus Hone, and it was the property she was living in when she negotiated with Walt Disney for the rights to make a film about her famous book. She left the premises in 1962. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

An exploration of how symbols encapsulating Egypt’s ancient past have been appropriated in more modern times has opened at the British Museum. The Past is Present: becoming Egyptian in the 20th Century brings together 31 objects gathered through the museum’s ‘Modern Egypt Project’ as it explores how the nation has branded itself by drawing on the past. The items on show include pasta packaging and cigarette boxes depicting the pyramids, milk bottles with a Cleopatra logo, and the emblem of the Banque Misr (Bank of Egypt), the first bank owned and operated by Egyptians. This Asahi Shimbun Display is free to see and can be viewed in Room 3 until 30th September. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

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St-Paul's-CathedralThe scene in which Mary Poppins (played by Julie Andrews) sings to the two Banks children about the old woman who feeds the birds outside St Paul’s Cathedral as they go to bed remains one of the most poignant of the iconic Disney film.

Of course, it wasn’t actually filmed at the cathedral – rather it was filmed on a set at Walt Disney’s studios in Burbank, Los Angeles – but the scene remains powerful for its imagery and music nonetheless.

The scene itself shows Mary holding up a snow globe with St Paul’s Cathedral inside as she sings. The audience is taken into the globe where we see the “little old bird woman” (the last role ever played by Oscar winning actress Jane Darwell) feeding the birds on steps outside the cathedral’s west front.

The rather melancholy song, written by brothers Richard and Robert Sherman, talks about how the little old bird woman came to the steps of St Paul’s every day and there called for people to buy her bags of crumbs (priced at tuppence a bag) to feed the pigeons (a practice now frowned upon!).

“All around the cathedral the saints and apostles
Look down as she sells her wares,
Although you can’t see it, you know they are smiling,
Each time someone shows that he cares.”

In the film, the children actually meet the old bird woman the following day but their father discourages them from feeding the birds (although the book recounts things a little differently).

The scene was apparently one of few Mary Poppins author PL Travers – whose first Mary Poppins book was published in 1934 – didn’t object to when making the film (the story of the somewhat acrimonious relationship between Travers and the film-makers is shown in the recent film Saving Mr Banks), which was released on 27th August, 1964. It is also said to have been Walt Disney’s favourite song from the movie.

Of course, St Paul’s is only one of a number of London locations mentioned in the live action/animated film – the Bank of England is another (and to see more about the fictional home of the Banks family, see our earlier post here).

Of course, Mary Poppins is just one of numerous films in which St Paul’s is featured – among the other films which depict the building or its interior include 1962’s Lawrence of Arabia, 1994’s The Madness of King George, 2004’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and 2009’s Sherlock Holmes.

This is one property for which there is no ‘real’ address – 17 Cherry Tree Lane doesn’t exist except in the pages of PL Travers’ books about Mary Poppins (and the many subsequent adaptions including the famous 1964 musical film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke).

Bank-of-EnglandBut we do know that the home of Mr and Mrs Banks – the couple who hired Ms Poppins as a nanny for their children Jane, Michael and baby twins John and Barbara – is believed to have been located somewhere in London – possibly somewhere to the north-west of the city close to The Regent’s Park and within an easy commute of the Bank of England (pictured) where Mr Banks worked.

While some of the locations featured in the book and the film – such as the Bank  and, of course, St Paul’s Cathedral (remember the lady who fed the birds?) – do exist – there is also at least one residential property related to Mary Poppins which does as well.

According to Ed Glinert, author of Literary London, the model for Admiral Boom’s house a little further along Cherry Tree Lane  – you may recall him firing his cannon on the 1964 film – can be found in Admiral’s Walk in Hampstead. The property was apparently once home to the nineteenth century architect George Gilbert Scott.